Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Game Rituals

I've been reading and re-reading my Kickstarter Playtest version of Motobushido, and it encourages players to start the game with a small ritual.  It's not much - you just basically salute one another and say the same phrase - but it reminded me of Polaris, where even the resolution mechanism had to do with the use of ritual phrases.

But it does something else, too: It signifies to the players that Game Is Starting. And that can sometimes be important.

I'm currently running one game and playing in three others, and in all four games, we generally get started when the GM says, "So, guys, where were we?"  Or, "So, last time you ... "

It's a small ritual in and of itself, really.

And it got me thinking. See, gamers are the smartest people I know.  Part of that is because I pretty much only know gamers and part of it is because gaming requires a level of thought that "normal" life generally doesn't.  It requires problem-solving and pattern recognition and ...

But that's a post for another time.

Here's the thing, though: Gamers are superstitious.  More superstitious even than most of the theater geeks I know - and that's saying something.

We all have our own dice-rolling or card-shuffling/drawing rituals. And we have our "lucky" dice and our unlucky dice. I know folks who always set their dice with the "best" results sitting up.  I have my "roll high" and my "roll low" dice that I have trained (nevermind that they ignore their training in the heat of the moment ... ).

I've seen gamers who just throw unlucky dice away.  I've seen gamers who bury them in the back yard.  I've seen gamers who melt them down, burn them, drills holes in them, shoot them, and crush them.

I wonder why that is.  The two most superstitious groups of people I know (and - yes - there is a great deal of overlap) are also the two most creative groups of people I know.  I wonder if superstition and creativity are using the same part of the brain.

Anyone know?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Two Kickstarters In Need of Some Love

So far, I've been very lucky on Kickstarter.  Most of the projects I have backed have made their goal, and most of those have managed to actually ship their product.

I am currently backing two projects which are both second attempts, as both failed to make their goal the first time.  One is a board game and one is an RPG. And both are looking questionable as far as making it this time, either - which is a shame. Because I don't back products I don't want (including Synnibarr).

The board game is called Twin Tin Bots.  It looks to be a lighter, faster-playing bot programming game with a few commonalities with Robo Rally.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love Robo Rally.  I bought it when it first came out and have all of the expansions for it.  It's a great little game.  But it is rather ridiculously time-consuming and can be an extremely frustrating game.  Twin Tin Bots doesn't have terrain effects to worry about.  It doesn't have random hands of cards to frustrate you, either.  Instead, you have a set pool of order tokens.  Each turn, you can play one token, remove one token, or clear all tokens.

I don't know, yet, how the timing effects work - if there is a First Player and you proceed clockwise or if you just take your turn and go.  Part of the "not knowing" is because the game isn't out, yet, so I haven't seen the rules.  I just watched the video.

As of this writing, the game is about two-thirds of the way to its goal if $15,000.

The RPG is called Invulnerable.  As the title implies, it's a superhero RPG.  There is a "Year One" edition available on DriveThruRPG.  I backed this the first time around, too.  Because it's clear that the designer has thought through some of the implications of being a super hero.  His updates #5 and #12 talk a bit about the setting.  And the more I read, the hungrier I am for this game.

The backer levels are reasonable, too.  For $25, you get a softcover copy of the book (after it's finished, of course).  The sample art which has been included so far has been good, and the mechanics look stable (which is an issue with far too many superhero games).

I've picked up the Year One edition. His goal with the Kickstarter is a new cover, more art, and better editing and layout.

As of this writing, the game is at about one third of its goal of $4,000.

If you have a few nickels to spare, both of these projects would love to have them.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Origins Nominees

The least relevant award in gaming has announced their 2013 nominations, as chosen by the board and then narrowed down by retailers who attended GAMA.  The actual decision-makers are the attendees of Origins.

ICV2 has the complete list here.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

Best Roleplaying Game
There are actually some good games in there this year.  Marvel Heroic is quite good.  Monsterhearts uses the Apocalypse World engine, and is also good.  I'd be okay if either of these win.

In fact, my money is on Marvel Heroic for the win.

Best Roleplaying Supplement
I like The Mythos Dossiers, but Marvel Heroic is probably going to take this one, too.

Best Board Game
This category has ... um ... a bunch of games I don't know or don't like.  And Lords of Waterdeep, which is good.  But I don't know how it'll hold up against some of the others - because, as I said, I just don't know them.

This, by the way, tells me that there are some serious omissions from the list. SeasonsLibertalia. Just for starters.

Best Collectible Card Game
I don't care about this category, because I am done with collectible gaming.  That said, however, it's odd not seeing Magic: the Gathering or Pokemon on the list, because those two and Yu-Gi-Oh are what seems to bring in the most money for the game store I frequent.

Best Traditional Card Game
Another category that I should care about, but I just ... I didn't like this year's nominees that much.  I've read the rulebooks for most of them and have watched other folks at Game Night give them a spin, but none of them seemed to hit that 'fun' button for me.

Best Family, Party, or Children's Game
Hasn't Catan Junior been out forever?  Did they refresh/restart it?

Once Upon A Time is a good game, and it deserves to win.

And Quarriors! should be up for best board game - it's not light enough to be a party game. But it'll probably win because the folks who vote go to Origins, which isn't aimed at the party game audience.

Best Gaming Accessory
Also known as the "We want to recognize [product] for something, but it doesn't fit into any of the other categories!"  I never know what's going to win this.

This year, there's Castle Panic: The Wizard's Tower, which is an expansion, not an accessory. But there's no board game expansion category (even though expansions have really become more and more typical).
The category also contains two different dice sets (both from Q Workshop), a set of collectible miniatures, and a set of dungeon tiles.

And then there are a bunch of categories I don't care about because I'm not a miniatures gamer these days, so I don't know any of the miniatures figures, rules, lines, etc, other than by name.  Well, other than the Trontek 29ers Corporation Team, which is one of the teams included in the base game.

Best Game-Related Publication
do care about this category, because there have been some really good products through here in the past. Like last year, when The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design and Designers & Dragons were both up for the prize.  But this year ... Never Unprepared is good and deserving of attention.  I don't know any of the others first-hand (I know about the Battletech book, but have never read it).

... and that's it.  Altogether another mediocre year with a few bright spots on their list.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Quarterly Kickstarter Update

As threatened a few months back, I plan to do this quarterly.

I'm not going to discuss every single project I have backed - only the ones which are notable in some way, either because I'm very excited about them or because they have become a travesty.

So here's the update:

For the first time since I started backing projects, I have no unfunded projects on my account.  Seriously.  It's a weird feeling.  Of course, since I started Kicksnarker, I've become more and more picky about what I'll back.

The Good
Since the last update, I have received the following products or they are ahead of schedule.

The Morrow Project (Digital version) - the print edition seems to be on-track.

Adventures Dark and Deep Player's Guide (Digital version) - this arrived more than a month ahead of schedule, and it looks like the print copy will be similarly early.

Dreadball - not all of it, but all of Season One.  Mantic is apparently starting to ship Season Two now.

The +5 Food of Eating (Digital version) - After several long breakdowns in communication due to upheaval in the creator's personal life, this one was starting to become a concern.  There are some very tasty-looking recipes in here, however.  I can't wait to try a few of them.

The Battle of Red Cliffs - The rules could probably have used a hair more polish, but I do really enjoy this two-stage set collection game.

Shadows of Esteren - We backed the prologue at the level that got us the first book, too.  I haven't had a chance to read it, yet, however.

Crokinole - We now have a Crokinole set.  It's one of the third-generation Mayday sets, and it's actually pretty good.

City of Iron - Due in June, as of two weeks ago, they had been printed and were on the boat.

The Neutral
These are projects which are running either on-time or are late with good communication.

Race to Adventure - This game is currently about four months behind, but Fred Hicks has done an excellent job of keeping everyone informed as to its progress.  The last update from about two weeks ago indicates that it's on its way to the warehouse prior to shipping, so not much longer on this one.

Tenra Bansho Zero - I have a PDF of this, but it's not the final DriveThru PDF. They are limited to about 500 per month, apparently, so it'll take four months for all of the backers to get their DTRPG versions.  The physical game itself is on a boat which - as of this writing - is in the Mediterranean.

Psi-Punk - Communication on this has been a bit uneven.  It's currently about three months late, and, based on updates, it's due for a mid/late May delivery.

tremulus - Another game with uneven communication.  We have a draft PDF, but not the finished product. As of a week ago, they were waiting for the printer's proofs.

Motobushido - communication has been very good, here.  We were informed this week that the product was going to be a bit delayed because the creator had the opportunity to work with a skilled and experienced editor and a skilled and experienced layout artist. IMHO, this is an acceptable delay.

The Bad
These are past-due with poor communication or other issues.

I say "these," but really, there's only one project in this grouping.

Mobile Frame Zero - It's clear that this project has been a learning experience for the team behind it.  They sold copies at PAX East, and gave backers who were present their copies. Copies for the rest of us should be on their way soon - but there is an issue.  They don't have a good list of who picked their copies up at PAX East. So they're relying on the honesty of backers (usually a pretty good bet with gamers) and are waiting a few so that folks who have their copies can let them know.

I'm waiting to buy a bunch of Lego pieces until I know my books have shipped.  I have a spreadsheet with a list of parts.

The Ugly
These are all a year or more late.  Communication has been uneven, and in a few cases, I just don't care anymore - which is a tragedy, really.

They Became Flesh - For most of the gaming internet, this has become the poster child for Kickstarter Fiascos. I have most of what I ordered, but I am in the minority, here. And, even if I didn't have my stuff, this still wouldn't be the worst for me. Communication has been spotty at best, with one update every few months which promises shipment "this week," or "soon," or similar.

Oh My God! There's An Axe In My Head - I'm beginning to believe that this game is cursed.  They are on their third publisher, which is why they decided to Kickstart it.  In December 11th, they updated telling us they'd hoped to have it shipping by early March.  That was their last update.  The prior update - in August - said that printing had started. But, by early March, it wasn't printed yet according to the printer.
UPDATE: Three hours before this post went live, we got an update.  As it was 2am locally, I didn't get it until this morning. Apparently the card size chosen for the project won't work, so the cards needed to be redesigned, which caused a redesign of the board to fit the new cards, which meant a new box, which meant adjusting the box art ...

Far West - this is the game that is often a runner-up in the Kickstarter Fiasco discussions. I've received a few things (the fiction anthology, for example), but not the main item I want (the game itself). We have been getting weekly updates, which, I think, is why this isn't the fiasco that They Became Flesh has been.

Chronicles of the Void - they lost their artist a year or so ago.  As of late February, it was in layout.  There have been several long gaps in communication.  The game itself looks cool, but it's past the point where I am excited anymore.

Powerchords - Funded, then a few regular updates, then a month or two of silence, followed by a bizarre comment about having been logged into the wrong Kickstarter account and that was why there were no updates.  Then, for over a year, we had weekly updates. Then he told us, "I need to finish this quickly, because I have to go write Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition.  Within two weeks it was done with writing, and we have had radio silence since.

For The Lolz
These are products I backed just because they amused me.

Emperor's New Clothes - Great show, guys.  This was a brilliantly-run project from start to finish.  Even if I wasn't getting a bumper sticker, it would have been worth the $5.  If you have some time, I heartily recommend going to Kickstarter and looking this one up.  Read through the updates in order.  It's worth the time.

Synnibarr - I have first and second editions.  This particular game is legendary for being the most gonzo kitchen sink setting ever designed.  It's ridiculously over the top.  Where Kevin Sembieda hit the brakes on Rifts, Raven c.s. McCracken stomped on that gas pedal.  And the system ... to give you an idea, each sense has its own rolls.  Want to sneak past a guard?  Be prepared, he might SMELL you!

I have the draft PDFs, and they are everything I expected them to be and more.  To give you an idea, the rules say that players need, among other things, a calculator.  For play.  The metric conversions are comical in their uselessness, too:
0.39 inches = 1 centimeter
3.2 feet = 1 meter (100 centimeters)
.62 miles = 1 km kilometer (1,000 meters)
62 mph - 100 kph (kilometers per hour)
2.2 lbs = 1 kilo
Yeah.  It's like that.

... and that's a good note on which to close out this update.